Our sign in peace

Our sign in peace
Our sign in peace

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Learning new soap making techniques

I have been following the soap making world and am amazed by the new techniques that are out there. Bramble Berry Soap Supply company has kits and tutorials of all the up and coming newest things in soap making. So, last Christmas Tim bought me a kit and I put it away. I kept meaning to get to it and the weather has been so hot in CT lately that on a hot summer day I broke it out and decided it was time!

I went to work using my soap making skills. The hard part, the person who was the author of the recipe left some important tips out. Mainly that the particular NIO(Nature Identical Oil) sets up very quickly and you should not mix too much. There were some other things in the recipe I thought could have been explained better but I continued on.
The key was layering different colors which set up too quick so it was like working with putty.

A few days later I removed it from the mold. My Dragon's Blood handmade soap. Not as much as a hot mess I thought it would be. There are air bubbles and the blend could have been better.

A slice of the soap revealed a little better results than I thought I would have. The black is mixed with charcoal which is good for skin and the layers are different colors. This will be for my personal use however, I'm not looking to pursue this level of soap making any time soon. I will keep watching the trends and maybe give it a go again now that I see what went wrong. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

The right tools make the difference

Grooming Angora rabbits can be a challenge to say the least and the tools make all the difference! I purchased these blunt tipped grooming scissors some months back and the daunting job of grooming has changed to an easier task. I have stopped using the electric shears because they also upset the rabbits and are not as effective with having to stop to clear the shears.

This is "Frankie" before his way over due grooming...

and this is "The Frank Man" after! I did some touching up after I took the picture but he is trimmed. I was able to get a lot of useable wool for spinning. You can even see his beautiful blue eyes! The tool does makes all the difference!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Inventorying Essential Oils, oh my!

When you're not sure what you have, then it's time to inventory. I came across a recipe for the bees that required certain essential oils and I just didn't know if I had some of them. Turns out I had all but one! It was time to clean out the cabinet and make up an inventory list of what was what from essential to fragrance to nature identical oil. Seems that I have quite a bit! I will be making some new soaps with new techniques and this will help with what I will be doing. I love it when I am a step ahead and that doesn't happen too often!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Keeping Rabbits cool in the summer

It is a challenge throughout the summer to keep our English Angoras cool. While I don't believe in outside hutch rabbits, it is still a challenge to keep them cool inside in the summer months. While they are growing their wool before shearing it is so important for them to be cool and to avoid heat stroke. Using tiles that have been put in the freezer, frozen water bottles and heavy fans in the basement where it is cool helps these guys manage. This is our Tawny who is 4 1/2 years old. She is overdue for a shearing. Her wool is thick and dense as well as an amazing producer!

Here is 2 of our babies that we have left, staying cool even for them is so important! 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

How many chickens do you see?

How many chickens do you see? We have gone over to using milk crates for our chickens to lay in, easier to clean, access, etc. However our chickens insist on using the same crate! As you can see there are more to the right but no, it has to be this one! So there are actually 5 chickens in this picture! A sixth one was in the waiting line and if they don't hurry up, she's coming in!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Nature's Spicy Condiment

As we go through summer, not all is lost on wild foraging. 

The Garlic Mustard has gone to seed and collecting it not only stops it from spreading but is a delicious spicy condiment too! The seeds are very easy to harvest when the plant has gone dry.

I carry a bag around with me to collect carefully by breaking the plant or pulling it up root and placing it head first into a bag...

I then place the seed heads in a gallon size plastic bag and shake! The seeds will gather in the bottom of the bag.

I then transferred it into a funnel to transfer the seeds into a shaker to either add as a peppery garlicky spice to food or use it in dishes, it's amazing. You can also just pick some and snack on it along the way, I just love it!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The man, the legend...may he be forever remembered...

We are so sad to hear of the passing of Bill Duesing. We got word that he had passed away during the night. A man who moved mountains in the Organic world and was the former President of  NOFA, the North Organic Farmers Association but also a neighbor and friend. He was a gentle man but worked hard and was the owner of Old Solar Farm here in Oxford, CT. 
Many years ago shortly after we started our farm, we had a Small Farm Tour that we had teamed up with other small farms to show it is possible to be sustainable with a small amount of property. We were out front talking to visitors when an old model classic black pick up truck pulled up and it was Bill Duesing! We were thrilled, it was as if Elvis had just visited our small farm. I had known Bill from talks he gave at the Nature Center where I work but the thought of him being so thrilled with what we were doing along with the others and the message we were spreading had him excited at the prospect of getting others involved. I will always remember him fondly and be honored that I knew such an amazing man...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Beating the heat...

With Connecticut embracing a heat wave with temperatures hitting the 90's and above over the next 7 days, I woke up at 5:30 am and got into the bees. It was a decision that needed to be made, waking pissed off bees in the morning or death by bee suit in 90 degree temperatures. I chose the lesser of the two, waking up pissed off bees that don't particularly like being awoken at 6 am! The Queen excluders and Supers needed to be placed on. All frames in both boxes are full and the hives are growing, if more room is not added they will swarm and we sure don't want that!

After painting all the boxes and components different colors so I can tell them apart, they have become a work of art on the hill! I love looking up and seeing the colors. So as the summer begins in full force, work on my girls!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Going strong...

Brief bee inspections today moved fast because no matter how hard I tried, that darn smoker would not stay lit! I think between my impatience and the need to get it done due to other pending tasks it took a stand and became stubborn! I went through the hives and saw nothing but frames like the one above, full of capped honey! If you look at this frame compared to the frame below you can see the difference. The capped honey is white and thin compared to the capping's of the baby bees.

And ones like this one filled with amazing brood patterns! Baby bees everywhere! All queens were spotted too! The hives are ready for supers which is unheard of in a first year hive, never mind three first year hives! Fingers crossed for a continued beekeeping season!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Taking it back!!!

When you just can't take it anymore, you take it back, and for us it was the yard and the house! No grass, no gardens and the ones we had were constantly being broken into by the chickens. Stepping in poop. The final straw was the egg laid on the stairs in the house! It was time to take it all back! So we took down the sheep fence since we haven't had the sheep now for a few years it was just sitting there, 4 feet tall and 100 feet of pure chicken entrapment!

Tim was so excited at the thought of fencing the chickens, he put it up all by himself before I got home!

As you can see everything is just dirt so there was no clearing!

Being let in to their new area, they seemed a bit confused but they will be fine...

we have our yard, gardens, house and sanity back! Sorry chickens but we're taking it all back!!!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Apiary Happenings...

Regular inspections of a hive are imperative to the maintenance and health of a hive. It has been a few weeks since the last inspection so it was time to fire up the smoker and take a peek! The weather was cool and a perfect time to go in.

All the hives looked like this, full of calm bees, working away. 

Baby bees of all stages were seen everywhere! The little white worms in the cells are baby bees in the larvae stage. Once a little bit bigger they will be capped so they can begin the pupa stage and then emerge as beautiful honeybees! The bees on top are called nurse bees, their task is feeding the larvae and keeping them warm. I brushed them all away except these stubborn girls so I could get a picture.

And then the queens! I caught a glimpse of this big girl who was on the run and trying to elude me and my phone camera!

As this one did too! She's a little darker but still a nice healthy girl doing an amazing job! Continue on ladies!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Happy 5 weeks old little ones!

Our baby English Angoras are 5 weeks old today! Soon they will be off to their new homes! We had quite a time getting these little wiggle worms to stay still for the seconds it took to take this picture! Tim's hands are actually just over them. They are all the sweetest babies, 3 Chestnut Agoutis and 2 Fawn Torts! Can you say "Awwwww?!"

Monday, June 11, 2018

Nature's Pesto!

This time of year is one of my favorites, not just because it's Spring but the possibilities are endless when it comes to wild foraging! One of favorites this time of year is Garlic Mustard Pesto. A wild yet invasive plant that grows everywhere this time of year. It's so invasive that it sounds out enzymes and kills everything around it. This is a second year plant that is very flavorful.

When I harvest it, I pull it out by the root and everything. Try to leave the seed pods in place, not allowing it to spread. This huge bunch was in my perennial garden alone!

First pluck the leaves off and rinse them off, allowing to dry slightly. 

Here is the finished results over pasta! You can also put it on crackers or whatever you want. Free food from Nature! 
Recipe is listed below:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

4 to 6 cups of washed Garlic Mustard
1/2 cup walnuts (toasted if you like)
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tbls Garlic Salt
Fine Sea Salt and cracked pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil (adjust to consistency)

Place the garlic mustard leaves in a food processor until mashed down, slowly add ingredients stopping to scrape the sides. It will keep for a few days. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

She will work to her death...

Did you know a worker bee, which is female, only lives to be 6 to 8 weeks old? This time of year we will often find honeybee workers trying to walk back to their hives because they are at the end of their life cycle. They will literally work themselves to death. The last phase of their lives are as forager bees which they will do until they can't do it any longer. 

This poor girl was trying so hard to get back home to die. I took her up to the hive and let the other bees tend her until she passed. Life as a worker bee is not an easy life.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A new bee suit and an Apiary success!

Yesterday it finally came, my new bee suit! It is triple ventilated and the zipped on veil is big enough to hold all my hair!!!

I was so pleased with all 3 hives! Each package was in good shape. Most frames were either like this, full of brood, eggs or larvae in hive 3!

Currently I have one hive body and a medium hive body on top of that. This hive (hive 2) is already drawing out the frames in the mediums because they have filled the 10 frames of the hive body. If you look close you can see larvae and eggs on this frame, even some capped brood too!

Hive 1 was not to be upstaged by the others with filled brood on their frames. The best thing was starting these bees out with already drawn out frames that gave them an accelerated boost. So excited with todays inspections and I didn't break a sweat in the new suit either!

Although I didn't see any of the queens today, I moved quickly because it was over cast and cool as well as not wanting to upset their natural balance. So a month later the results are good and fingers crossed that it continues.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Finally, it's back!

We have been on pins and needles waiting for our fence charger to be repaired. It stopped working and was still under warranty. With regular bear sightings all around our small yet rural town, we got it back up and hopefully running again!
Bears are becoming one of the biggest problems beekeepers are facing. They can decimate a hive in a matter of minutes and a whole bee yard in no time! So glad to have our charger back!  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I see you!!!

Our baby Angora bunnies are now 2 weeks and as our Granddaughter Scarlett says, "I see you!" Their eyes are open and they are hopping about. They are some of the fattest babies I have ever seen, healthy and active.

Mama Peachy has started putting hay in her nesting box so the babies can begin to start nibbling on the hay. Under there you can see little hops and movement. So our babies are growing and we couldn't be happier!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Plethora of Eggs!

That's all I can say, we have a plethora of eggs!!! We have more eggs than we know what to do with! Right now we are offering 2 dozen for $5.00! Give us a call or stop by!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

...and this happened last week!

So this happened last week, Peachy gave birth to 5 beautiful healthy kits. It's finally showing signs of Spring on the farm!

At a day old they are healthy and their colorings are easier to see.

The next day, PJ went to a new home! My friend Theresa lost her precious Benjianna recently. She was so heartbroken that I could hardly bear seeing her so sad. I offered her PJ and she came to meet her and it was love!

Today I tried to check the babies but Peachy is one protective mom! It's not easy getting in there.

A week later, it is clear what colors we have here! 3 Chestnut Agoutis and 2 Fawn Torts!